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Archive for April, 2011

Good morning from Newport Coast! We may not have Westminster Abbey, but we do have this. And this is not bad.

On Thursday night, Velvet Husband and I met an old friend {we’ll call her Yummy Mummy, because yummy mummy to a 16-month old baby girl she is!} and her husband for dinner at Mi Piace, an adorable Italian kitchen & lounge in Old Town Pasadena. It was an exciting dinner because I hadn’t seen Yummy Mummy in over thirteen years. Why so long, you ask? My friends are scattered all over the world because I grew up in Norway, Indonesia, Russia, and Texas. And since we’re all over, it’s hard to keep up with everyone. Yummy Mummy and I were on almost every sports team together at the Anglo-American School of Moscow, even the AAS Cheerleading Squad. Oh, yes — there was an AAS cheerleading squad. Our school mascot was the Penguin. The Fighting Penguin to be exact. Are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready to win? We’re back. Hey, hey! So let’s begin…

We had a ball reminiscing about the Russia days. There were margaritas. Appetizers. Entrees. Desserts. Tea and coffee. It was one of those dinners that you enjoy, not the awkward kind where you’re not sure what to say. We had so much fun that we walked around Old Town Pasadena after dinner to prolong the evening. Many thanks to Yummy Mummy and her sweet husband for a fabulous time!

Along with refreshing margaritas, we shared a delicioso bruschetta appetizer that would be fun to {attempt to} recreate at home. I enjoyed my sauteed salmone alla mi piace tossed with white mushrooms, bell peppers, broccolini, garlic, basil, and oregano in a lovely white wine butter sauce. Sadly, no pictures of our delicious margaritas because I hadn’t spilled the “healthy living blog” beans to Yummy Mummy before imbibing and didn’t want to weird her out by taking pictures of my margarita just yet. But don’t worry, as you can see from my pictures below, I wasn’t shy about the blog for long. Sometimes when I take pictures of my food, I think waiters and restaurant patrons just think I don’t get out much. Oh, poor thing, she gets so excited over a plate of food.

Let them think what they will; I have pretty pictures! I could have stopped after the appetizer and entree. I would have been just fine. Full, even. But we were having such a great time that we decided to prolong the fun with dessert, tea, and then a walk. Indeed, I was defenseless when I spotted Sugar Free Carrot Cake on the dessert menu. How could this carrot-cake connoisseur resist? Upon asking our waiter whether I had made a worthy choice, he gave me a skeptical look as if to say, Sugar free? Come on now, bambina. You honestly think that’s any good? Steadfast, I stood by my carrot cake convictions and was not disappointed. Indeed, Mi Piace! Wonderful dessert. Fabulous evening. Cheers to breathing new life into old friendships!

Have you ever reconnected with a long-lost friend? What was it like when you reconnected?

What was your high school mascot? 

Don’t forget to weigh in — how do you like to stay healthy while traveling?

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Cheers to you, dear friends and family! Thank you so much for reading The Red Velvet Life over the past few formative weeks. It means so much to me that you take the time to drop by, read, and share your thoughts each day. Stay tuned for an upcoming giveaway to thank you for your support!

And if the above picture isn’t a dead giveaway in and of itself, we’re still in Newport Coast spending time with my parents and exploring a few parts of Southern California. Breakfast yesterday was a comforting bowl of chocolate peanut butter banana oatmeal. And since I don’t have my pure cocoa powder on hand, I tried something different and used 1/4 scoop of Jillian Michaels Natural Whey Protein Powder that Velvet Husband found at the store. I couldn’t help but melt in Ghiradelli Midnight Reverie Dark Chocolate; 86% of crisp cocoa goodness! With the blueberries, oats, cocoa, and peanut butter, this breakfast tasted more like dessert, which is good for reasons I will address later. And if you look closely, you can see bits of devastated kale in my lunchtime smoothie pictured above. I never thought I’d say this, but I love kale. When I can’t taste it. And it’s shredded into unrecognizable bits. Disguised by chocolate. Yeah, I love kale.

We joined my parents for dinner at one of their favorite places, a country club that will go unnamed in Costa Mesa. Coat required, tie optional. Said club is a wedding venue-type place in Costa Mesa, and my golfer parents like the ambiance and special attention service. I settled on an avocado mango salad, the applewood smoked pork with sweet potato mash and vegetables, and a white chocolate lava cake for dessert. My entree was wonderful, the salad was refreshing, but I didn’t finish my dinner. You know why. My sweet tooth cannot be tamed. Three words: Room. For. Dessert.

This little ramekin of doughy goodness rivaled my entree as my favorite part of the meal. It’s a close call because the applewood smoked pork medallions were delicious, too.

My salad, entree, and doughy roll were delicious; the service was attentive and lovely; but I was completely disappointed in my dessert. This syrupy-spongy white cake was not at all what I expected; I barely touched it. Correction: I barely touched it after I selectively scooped out the chocolate lava. Yes, that happened. In front of Mommy and Daddy. {Yes, I call them Mommy and Daddy.} Anywho, The Husband wasn’t crazy about his brownie-strawberry-ice cream dessert selection either. My parents shared a Dutch apple pie, so perhaps with regard to dessert, parents really do know best? 😉 I’m sorry, but is this supposed to look appetizing?

Gross. Anyway, with our travel-laden schedule lately, it’s been a challenge to eat healthy and fit in workouts. Along the way, I’ve developed a few strategies for eating healthy while away from home. I’ll be sharing tips for healthy vacationing in a future post. Be sure to let me know some of your tips; I would love to hear from you!

What are your strategies for eating and staying healthy while vacationing?

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After a weekend of Easter indulgence, it felt good and detoxifying to start Monday on a lighter note with a bowl of whipped banana oatmeal a la KERF, with my own twists of water instead of milk, and few banana slices and a scoop of peanut butter on top. Hello, routine. I’ve missed you.

Next, Velvet Husband and I attended my beloved Body Pump class together! Yes, my schedule has been weird and travel-heavy lately, and I’m aware of my irritatingly vague allusions regarding said schedule. Stay tuned for more details in later posts, dear readers!

I forgot my camera, so I have no pictures of weights + gym this go-around. My muscles still ache two days later, so that’s proof enough for me that class was successful. However, on a slightly nonplussed note, I’d like to point out that not one but two women offered aggressive and unsolicited  advice to my husband during Body Pump class. For example, one woman who was very late to class (let’s call her “Tardy for the Party,” shall we?) performed most exercises incorrectly and unsafely, all while groaning in agony. Last I checked, this isn’t Wimbledon, and you’re no Monica, mkay? Tardy for the Party might as well have been [unsafely] lifting weights on her own. She wasn’t even doing Body Pump. Then, while my hardworking hubby pumped his way through the shoulder track, Tardy for the Party raced up to him, poked at his shoulder muscles, and barked incomprehensible commands at him. The Husband was not pleased, but being the gracious Southern gentleman he is, he brushed off the comments and focused on his workout. Good man.

After the drama Body Pump, I enjoyed [two glasses of] refreshing strawberry, banana, blueberry, kale, chocolate whey powder smoothie with a few scoops of peanut butter for healthy fat. Routine never tasted so good.

Velvet Husband and I headed to the airport and flew to Orange County, which is where we’re staying through the end of the week. Before hopping on our flight, we each enjoyed yummy Schlotzsky’s sandwiches. I didn’t quite finish my veggie sandwich, but only because I was saving a little room for a famous little Texas treat, a Lammes Candies’ Longhorn. On our short layover in Phoenix, I enjoyed a hot vanilla rooibos tea from Starbucks. Upon arrival in Orange County, my parents were not disappointed when we came bearing extra Lammes candies.

After a hard day at the gym, Velvet Husband found respite in his Texas praline treats. More from the OC later!

Do you think Tardy for the Party was off base, do you think she was just trying to be helpful, or something in between?

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On Easter morning, Velvet Husband and I donned our Sunday best and headed to the annual Easter celebration at Velvet Aunt and Uncle’s farm in East Travis County.

We look forward to Easter at the farm every year. First, we packed ourselves into the on-site chapel like little sardines. Something about singing hymns with family and dear friends in a little chapel warms my soul and makes me feel like dancing. He is risen, indeed!

After church, we enjoyed a delicious brunch prepared by sweet Renee here. Renee is so genuine and prepares our meal with care each year. He said something that touched me — he said that he always keeps the family in mind while he prepares the meal. We’ve all heard of mindful eating, but Renee is also a mindful chef. Food always tastes better when it’s prepared with love.

I made sure to praise Renee for his beautiful portabello mushrooms. He shared with me that they were made of mushrooms, panko bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Simplicity is so sweet, isn’t it? The mixed vegetable salad of green beans and brussels sprouts was fresh and delicious, and some of the ingredients were directly sourced from the farm.

Velvet Husband’s Grand Uncle recently celebrated his 80th birthday, so we helped him commemorate the occasion with a colorful Easter cake with heavenly icing. It was no Patsy’s chocolate cake, but sometimes store-bought cake does the trick. Most importantly, it was fun to celebrate our wonderful Great Uncle. He is such a special and inspiring man, and I’m honored to be a part of his family. I love talking with him about the latest books, movies, and their most recent global escapades; he loves to travel with his beautiful wife and Velvet Husband’s sweet Mimi. He inspires us all with his sweet spirit and contagious joie de vivre. It’s hard not to smile around this guy!

With happy hearts and full bellies, we talked for several hours and enjoyed that gorgeous Texas sunshine. Here we are with the Mimi, Velvet Husband’s wonderfully sweet grandmother.

And what Easter is complete without a little pink and green?

True story  — the little boy on the far right approached me, Velvet Husband, and Renee and asked if he could take one of the large Easter eggs (bottom left) home. Lacking egg-doling authority, we directed him to Velvet Uncle (far left). Looks like things didn’t go so well, ha!

I made a new furry farm friend.

Here’s Velvet Husband with his amazing Aunt, who, along with her husband, graciously hosted all Easter and pre-Easter celebrations. I am so blessed to call such beautiful people my family. Many thanks for another wonderful Easter!


After the family revelry, Velvet Husband and I wanted to chill out, but we weren’t ready to head back out to my parents’ house. So, we stopped by one of our favorite coffee shops in Austin, Mozart’s on Lake Austin, for refreshment, reading, and blogging. I would be hard-pressed to recommend a better place to read and blog on a gorgeous sunny day in Austin. Mozart’s has a tempting array of desserts, coffee drinks, and smoothies. Given my content post-brunch belly, I opted for an unsweetened iced tea and a Topo Chico. Days like this remind me to appreciate all the wonderful blessings in my life: God, family, friends, and good health. Happy Belated Easter to you and yours, friends!

Which holidays hold the most significance for you and your family? 

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Happy Belated Easter, friends! Velvet Husband’s family (and by the grace of God, my family as of that balmy August ’08 day!) does Easter big. For the past few days, we’ve enjoyed good old-fasioned family bonding in the homeland. Minimal cooking [by me at least], plentiful eating out. I kept my meals relatively healthy by eating as clean as possible while allowing room for worthy indulgences. I don’t waste my time with mediocre desserts, y’all. If its sugary, then it better be worth it! That said, for the next few posts, don’t expect many recipes. On the other hand, do expect numerous mouthwatering dessert pictures involving chocolate, cake, and icing. Mmmm. Consider yourselves warned!

Saturday began with lunch at Patsy’s Cowgirl Cafe, a true Texas family gem owned by Velvet Husband’s remarkable Aunt and Uncle. Patsy’s local artwork, country music, and homestyle meals would do Miss Patsy Cline proud. This Texpat cowgirl was positively smitten by the western decor!

Since I had a light breakfast, I savored my yummy chicken and mashed potato special with a light side salad dressed up with a lovely  house-made balsamic.

My hearty meal was followed by what might be the most decadent and delicious slice of chocolate cake I have ever had. Alexis Bellino might call it “sinful.” Ha! Well, I’ve never met a chocolate cake too rich or sinful for my taste. Everything [chocolatey] in moderation, loves…

Welcome to our table! We had so much fun catching up with our amazing family. Lots of hugs, cheek kisses, and laughter. A perfect start to the Easter weekend. And I’ll go ahead and mention the elephant blue horse in the room. There. I said it. We Austinites are an eclectic bunch with eclectic taste to boot!

I was smitten by the cowgirl decor. This would look fabulous in our San Francisco old Victorian living room, no? 😉

After a wonderful lunch, we moved on to the next family event – a comedy show at Esther’s Follies! Again, in the spirit of full disclosure — The Husband’s amazing Aunt and Uncle own the Follies. Family connection aside, Esther’s is an Austin institution and it rocks. If you find yourself in Austin and need a good laugh (who doesn’t?), head on down to Esther’s for a good old time. I was too busy enjoying the show to take pictures, but trust me when I say it’s hilarious.

After Esther’s, a few of us youngins walked over to Club DeVille, a divey live music joint where we were the only table not wearing skinny/ripped/holy jeans. My Lilly print top, J Brand capris, and pearls were out of place in a beautifully Austiny way. And you know what? It didn’t matter. That’s the beauty of Austin.

Afterwards, Velvet Husband and I took off in our new ride. Suits us well, don’t you think? Keep Austin weird, y’all.

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For a Texpat, the first few hours back in Austin are precious. Don’t waste them. Various food establishments and neighborhoods will compete for your time, but you’ll eventually give in to best friends, tortilla chips, and queso. The stuff of dreams for Texpats.

Upon securing rental car, calling friends, and changing facebook status (Just landed in Austin!), arrange to meet friends at Guero’s on South Congress, an Austin institution that stirs up football, margarita, and queso nostalgia.

Trust me on this one — order Topo Chico. Expect bewildered looks if you ask for pelligrino or “sparkling water.”

Yes, everything really is bigger in Texas. Therefore, I recommend splitting your fajita platter with a willing partner. Husbands will generally oblige.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with corn and flour tortillas, guacamole, rice, beans, sour cream, cheese, salsa, and meat combinations. Think of it as a choose your own adventure book. You’ll eat healthier tomorrow. Today, embrace the fajita, one of Mexico’s wonderful contributions to the great state of Texas.

Be extra sweet to the waitress, and she’ll offer to take your picture.

Welcome home, y’all!

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Great Expectations

“GREAT EXPECTATIONS”

FADE IN:

AIRPORT FOOD COURT – MORNING (2011)

Busy airport food court. Anxious people are waiting in food court lines for pre-board meals. KRISTEN and HUSBAND are hurrying to catch plane to Austin, but excitedly spot a vendor with palatable breakfast options. They approach the counter.

KRISTEN

I’d like the apple cinnamon oatmeal with bananas on top. And could you add a scoop of peanut butter to my oats? {Ashamed of her peanut butter addiction, she averts JAMBA JUICE LADY’S gaze.} I know it sounds weird, but it tastes awesome.

JAMBA JUICE LADY {enthusiastically}

Sure. Girl, it’s not weird. I might try it at home myself!

KRISTEN {Shame dissipates. Visibly excited to have found a kindred spirit.}

Oh, you’ll love it! Try some cocoa powder, too. Trust me, it’s so good.

JAMBA JUICE LADY {Curiously glances at KRISTEN’S abdominal region}

Girl, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you might be expectin’ something…

HUSBAND recoils in fear.


FADE OUT.

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